Sometimes it’s good to be reminded about reality—in that painful, cold shower kind of way. And British climatologist Professor Sir Bob Watson, former chair of the IPCC, pulled no punches during a withering, breathless indictment of climate inaction yesterday in his keynote address at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting in San Francisco.
Perhaps the best thing to do is present to you with Sir Watson’s conclusion, delivered at the crescendo of an hour-long lecture. It’s what could be called the ultimate climate change stump speech:
We are not on a pathway to a two degree world—much more likely three to five. Climate change is not just an energy issue, but it’s the way we manage our land: We’ve got a major challenge producing the food we need for 9 billion people by 2050, whilst simultaneously reducing emissions by agriculture. We absolutely need governance reform from the national to the global level. Vested interests in certain parts of industry are controlling the debate… We’ve got to eliminate perverse subsidies in transportation, energy and agriculture. They do little for the federal treasury, and they adversely affect the environment. We need to incentivize new policies to get them to penetrate the marketplace, some of the new renewable energy policies. We clearly need an Apollo-scale project on things such as carbon capture and storage. No single country should go it alone: We need Europe to work together with the US, Japan, China, and the private sector for the technologies we need for tomorrow. It’s quite clear: there are cost-effective and equitable solutions to climate change, but we need more leadership, political will—they both seem to be in short supply at the moment—and it will require substantial changes in policies, practices and technologies, and they’re not currently underway.